Day 41

10. June 2000, Beijing to Anchorage

Today is a long day, we take the bus for the airport around 10 o'clock in the morning and fly Korean Airlines over Seoul and arrive about 10 o'clock the same morning (thanks to the dateline). So unlike Phileas Fogg, we do not make the mistake of forgetting about the sun's rotation around the earth as we go along and will therefore presumably not arrive one day early in London.
In the morning, we say good-bye to the "Peking" competitors who have accompanied us for the past forty days and have become friends. The day is really dominated by planes not by cars, the flight to Seoul is about 90 min, we have to wait another three hours and then we take an 8-hour flight to Anchorage. In the evening we are invited by the local chapter of an American sports car club to a barbecue party at the Anchorage museum of aviation history. Most of Alaska can only be sensibly reached by plane and Anchorage is an important refueling station for many international flights so many small planes and cargo planes can be seen around the airport.

In the evening we hear the news that the Antonov has arrived. The Russian-engineered plane carries all of the "80 days" competitors' cars and almost all of the officials and has been delayed many times. It had to stop over at some Russian airport. As we drive to the airport to see if we can make any photographs we are surprised that the local policemen allow us onto the field. We are even allowed inside the plane by the crew of the Antonov, so we got a chance to admire this great (in both senses) piece of Russian engineering and make some photos and videos.

Overall 1 hour 10 minutes penalty

The official results can be looked up on this website

Flying from Seoul to Anchorage takes only seven and a half hours.

Paul Wieser, general manager of Busch Canada (on the right) welcomes us on foreign ground, as Dawson City, Canada, our first stop in Canada, is slightly harder to get to than Anchorage.

I took this picture before a policeman asked us to make a move. After some talking, they let us on the field, thanks a lot.

The Antonov can be opened in the back. This is how they loaded the cars.

And the Antonov can be opened in the front. This is how they are going to unload the cars. Very elegant!
Notice how the cockpit stays in place.
What does this remind of? The Concorde, of course, where the only purpose of the hinging nose is for the pilots to be able to see the ground when landing while at the same time keeping an aerodynamic shape for supersonic flight. Today, engineers would solve the same problem with simple video cameras.

The cars are loaded tightly on the plane, on two levels. One of the officials told me how the hardest bit was to get the middle cars on the second level. Driving up a steep ramp at reasonable speed while avoiding scratching cars on the left and cars on the right.
The other hardest bit must have been the flight itself: A dozen of officials and few members of crew in a small cabin with no windows on a day's flight. (there are some "living quarters" inside the plane but not designed for so many people)

The Citroën of François and Shirin from Geneva is the first to leave the plane (all cars are driven by the rally officials). Heavy Lift (written on the nose) is a company based in Cambridge, UK renting the Antonov to people who need to transport something BIG and FAST.



Reception for us at the Aviation museum. Second from right is Matt, a friend of Sami from M.I.T. who works in Anchorage for British Petroleum. (not a very good photo, I know)
The plane on the left is a submarine-hunter from second world war which crashed but was recovered and reassembled.

Antonov, a Russian masterpiece. About 200 of these were built and it carries about 120 tons of goods. Our cars, weight-wise were not even half of that but space-wise filled up the plane. There is also an Antonov which can carry 160 tons but only one was built. Presumably that is the largest transport plane in the world.

Change of vehicle for Sami

The impression made on a person by the Antonov is much better if you are not allowed to look into this back-room.

The Antonov is revealing its treasures. Guess who is parked in pole position, on the top left.

Finally, car 42 is about to touch American ground for the first time in its life.

Watchers, mountains and the Antonov.
Notice that it is about 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening.
We must be quite far up north, then!